George Zimmerman’s wife in the Trayvon Martin case was recently arrested for this felony crime.
There are actually a few criminal statutes in Florida making perjury a crime. These crime are found in Chapter 837 of the Florida Criminal Statutes. The perjury crime most people think about is when a person lies under oath at an official proceeding, such as during a court hearing of some type. That is Florida Statute 837.02 “Perjury in official proceedings” which states:
(1) Except as provided in subsection (2), whoever makes a false statement, which he or she does not believe to be true, under oath in an official proceeding in regard to any material matter, commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
(2) Whoever makes a false statement, which he or she does not believe to be true, under oath in an official proceeding that relates to the prosecution of a capital felony, commits a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
(3) Knowledge of the materiality of the statement is not an element of the crime of perjury under subsection (1) or subsection (2), and the defendant's mistaken belief that the statement was not material is not a defense.
In the Trayvon Martin case, involving Florida’s “Stand your Ground” law, George Zimmerman’s wife is accused of allegedly lying under oath at George Zimmerman’s bail hearing about whether the couple had sufficient funds in order to bail George Zimmerman out of jail. There was allegedly donations made to a criminal defense fund on Mr. Zimmerman’s behalf in order to fund the his “Stand Your Ground” defense and retain an experienced criminal defense attorney to the 2nd degree murder charges he is facing. She is accused of stating under oath that she did not have access to any money to bond her husband out of jail when, allegedly there was $75,000.00 transferred to her bank account from Mr. Zimmerman.
Roger Clemens’s trial just concluded. The criminal perjury allegations against him include numerous statements made to Congress investigating steroids. One such statement was that Roger Clemens denied being at a party at Jose Conseco’s case. Yes, this is really is why the prosecutors are really charging him with perjury. Roger Clemens has a very aggressive criminal defense attorney who has vigorous fought these charges from the arrest through the jury trial.
This type of perjury is a 3rd degree felony in Florida. The arrested person is facing up to 5 years in prison for EACH alleged false statement when charged with perjury.
In order to be found guilty of this type of perjury the person must be under oath in an official proceeding. This could be a trial, bond hearing, motion to suppress evidence illegally seized in a criminal case, etc.
The person MUST be placed under oath by the court. The person MUST BELIEVE the statement is not true! This could lead to various defenses as the prosecutor would have to prove the defendant’s state of mind and prove not only the statement is false, but the speaker knew it to be false. This is a heavy burden the prosecutor must face to convict a suspect of felony perjury.
The statement must relate to a MATERIAL matter. That means it has to be important and relevant to the case! The statement can not be about some trivial matter. That means that if a person was charged with grand theft and a witness testifies their favorite color is blue when it is in fact red, it would not be material to the case as it has nothing to do with whether someone stole some money or not. This trivial statement would not be subject to a criminal perjury charge.
Finally, whether the person accused of perjury knows the statement is material or not, is not a defense to this criminal charge. So, if someone lies thinking that the statement is not important to the case, it is not a defense to this felony. The jury decides whether it is material without regard to what the defendant was thinking. It is another example of strict liability crimes taking over Florida criminal statutes.
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